The Jagungal Wilderness

The Jagungal Wilderness

My foot slipped. It was inevitable in snowmelt running this fast, and rocks this slick. One more slip and the Garmin and the phone would both be drowned. I’d just be a bit chilly and embarrassed to be fishing my bike out of the river, but I’d still be alone in the Jagungal wilderness, a vehicle free zone just north of Australia’s highest mountain.

 It was probably at that moment that I was happiest to have decided to get a holster type saddle bag, one that takes a canoe dry bag instead of being seam sealed and water “resistant”. My satellite tracker was safely inside, and would continue to work even if the entire bike got a quick dunking.


I had begun the Jagungal section more than six hours after heading off for the day, and already had a 1,300m climb in the legs. The bike weighed 20kg loaded, nothing for a tourer, but I was biting off a bit more than a tourer would attempt. 170km and 4,000m of vert doesn’t sound like too much as long as the bike is light and the roads are good; but the Jagungal was a mystery to me and the road conditions unknown.

 There are rides when bike packing equipment allows riders to do what touring equipment absolutely forbids. The Jagungal would shake and break the bolts and frames of any pannier system on the market; but a saddle bag and tank bag were all I needed to store the clothes, spares and enough calories to cope with 10 hours of riding without seeing another human, let alone a building or a shop.


Yes, there’s “waggle” in any system of this type, but it can be avoided by getting appropriate gears and sitting down – my combination of 34x30 gears and laughable power was patently inadequate. Unfortunately, this meant I also gained some insight into the fact that it is much easier to push a bike with a saddle bag than panniers, since my slowest kilometre took 23 minutes of hard going.


Being familiar with the Yorkshire roots of the Restrap bag, I often wondered what its makers might think of the Jagungal. Would they feel at home in the flowering heath? Or would they be just a little daunted by the silence and solitude of being able to ride hard for five hours without seeing a vehicle, a person, an electric wire, a fence or a road? I was.

 By James Garriock




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